In the last minute of the game, the scoreboard at Minges-Farley Stadium lost power.
Given that a single-game state record in points was scored in a 77-67 victory for J.H. Rose over cross-town rival D.H. Conley on Friday night, there could not have been a more appropriate ending to a wild offensive showcase.
The 144 points set a new single-game N.C. High School Athletic Association record for combined points, eclipsing the old mark of 142. Windsor beat Creswell 142-0 in 1930, and Cardinal Gibbons, which was not an NCHSAA member at the time, beat member school Eastern N.C. School for the Deaf 100-42 to 1995.
The teams combined for 55 points in the third quarter alone.
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The Rampants and Vikings tallied 21 touchdowns and combined for 1,518 yards of total offense, eclipsing the old NCHSAA mark of 1,392 yards set just last year in Alexander Central’s 82-42 win against Ashe County.
The Vikings accounted for 766 of those yards, including 570 through the air. Rose balanced the run and pass, rushing for 384 yards and throwing for 368 more.
Conley quarterback Holton Ahlers, hobbling on a sore ankle for much of the second half and taking hit after hit from Rose’s pass rush, finished with 491 yards and five touchdowns passing and added 90 more yards rushing and four more scores.
Rose running back E.J. Harris finished with 347 yards and six touchdowns rushing on 27 carries.
“He’s just a special player,” J.H. Rose coach David Wojtecki said. “He gets stronger and stronger as the game goes on. The initial contact doesn’t bring him down. He’s a special running back for us.”
Conley wide receiver Duce Fuller compiled 15 receptions for 251 yards and four touchdowns.
Rose quarterback Ryan Goodwin was 11-for-18 passing for 368 yards and four touchdowns and added another score on the ground. Rampants wide receiver Caleb Edwards finished with 293 yards and three touchdowns on just six catches.
Goodwin was back behind center for the Rampants after suffering a concussion two weeks ago against Havelock. He missed last week’s game, a loss against Rocky Mount as Grant Humphreys, usually a receiver, stepped in behind center.
J.H. Rose (2-3, 1-0 Eastern Carolina 4A/3A) jumped out to a 21-0 lead as Goodwin quickly got back into action with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Demetrus Johnson, ran in an 11-yard keeper on a short field following a bad snap on a Conley punt attempt and an 86-yard scoring run by Harris.
“That hurt us a little bit, going down 21,” Conley coach Nate Conner said. “We never quite got back out of it. ... But I’m proud of our kids. Our kids didn’t waver. When they got a touchdown, we got right back in it.”
Ahlers led the rally for Conley (3-3, 0-1), connecting with Fuller for a 41-yard scoring strike in the last minute of the first quarter, and found C.J. Johnson in stride for a 60-yard touchdown to pull within 21-14 with 10:40 to go in the first half.
The teams kept going back and forth as Rose took a 35-27 lead into the locker room.
Then the third quarter happened.
Harris scored on a 2-yard plunge four minutes into the period. It started a run of eight touchdowns by the teams – four each – bookended by another scoring run by Harris, this one from 68 yards out in the last seconds of the period to help J.H. Rose keep the Vikings at arm’s length.
“We played a heckuva football game,” Conner said. “They didn’t make a mistake offensively. We made a few and they never made one.”
While the defenses didn’t have much success, Rose got a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter to help preserve its lead.
The Rampants’ Quadai Ward picked off a desperation heave from Ahlers on a fourth-and-10 midway through the period, and Izayzuwon Ruffin stepped in front of a pass from Conley backup quarterback Andrew Pittman – filling in after a vicious hit knocked Ahlers out of the game during his last interception – in the waning seconds and on the first play after the scoreboard shut down.
“Hats off to Conley,” Wojtecki said. “We knew it was going to be a battle and we knew it could come down to one or two plays.”
After the successful recovery of one short kickoff in the third quarter, the Vikings tried numerous others, failing to recover them and giving Rose opportunities for shorter scoring drives.
“It didn’t matter whether they were on the 45-(yard line) or the 10 or whatever,” Conner said. “They made a lot of plays.”
Both teams certainly did.
4 attempted punts in the game (one botched)
6 touchdowns from Rose’s E.J. Harris
9 touchdowns from Conley’s Holton Ahlers in the loss
55 points in the third quarter alone
144 points combined
251 yards receiving by Conley’s Duce Fuller
293 yards receiving by Rose’s Caleb Edwards
347 yards rushing by Harris
368 yards passing by Rose’s Ryan Goodwin
497 yards passing by Ahlers
570 yards passing by Ahlers and backup Andrew Pittman
1,514 total yards of offense